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Trevor Lawrence Is Best QB Prospect Since Luck, and His Ceiling Could Be Higher

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystFebruary 12, 2021

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence warms up before the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game against Ohio State Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

On Friday morning at an indoor practice facility in South Carolina, the no-doubt first overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft took part in a pro day that was much more formality than audition. Unless he's abducted by aliens between now and April 29, the Jacksonville Jaguars are absolutely going to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence when they're on the clock with the No. 1 selection.

And if Lawrence is abducted by aliens, new Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer will probably launch an interstellar rescue mission.

It's been a while since a quarterback headed into the draft seemingly destined for stardom. Joe Burrow had a record-shattering season at LSU in 2019, but that was his first big season in Baton Rouge. Lawrence has been sitting atop NFL teams' boards at quarterback seemingly from the moment he burst onto the scene as a freshman.

No, the last time there was a quarterback who had been drooled over for years was back in 2012, when NFL teams were trying to "Suck for Luck." Like Andrew Luck, Lawrence has garnered the label "generational prospect." Like Luck, Lawrence appears to be a can't-miss quarterback—a passer who is destined for stardom. But for all their similarities, there's at least one difference between the two.

As great as Luck was coming out of Stanford, Lawrence's ceiling is even higher.

Brian Blanco/Associated Press
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The timetable for Lawrence's pro day was thrown for a loop by the recent news that he will soon undergo surgery to repair his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Given that development, it was fair to wonder why Lawrence would work out at all, but per Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, former NFL quarterback Jordan Palmer, who ran the session, said that for Lawrence, the decision was a no-brainer.

"Reason he wants to throw is he loves ball and he has nothing to hide," said Palmer. "'They want me to throw, I'll throw. Yeah, I'll throw for everybody. Sounds great.' For him, he could sit there and say, 'I'm not doing it and here's why.' And you gotta understand where I'm coming from too. My brother [Carson] was the surefire No. 1 pick, no doubt. He played in the Senior Bowl and threw at the combine, because 'Give me a ball. I'd love to compete. I have nothing to hide. I love throwing.'"

Lawrence's performance at the throwing session was fine. He missed on a couple of passes, but for the most part, he showed excellent accuracy and arm strength. Of course, to see those things on display, all you had to do was pop in one of the innumerable tapes of Lawrence lighting it up at Clemson over the past three seasons.

In 40 total games as the quarterback for the Tigers, Lawrence completed 758 of 1,138 attempts (66.6 percent) for 10,098 yards and 90 touchdowns with 17 interceptions and a ridiculous passer rating of 164.3. He didn't lose a game until the final contest of his second season as starter (the 2019 College Football Playoff title game against Burrow and LSU), made the CFP in all three of his seasons as starter and lost all of twice in his career. He also gained 943 yards and added another 18 touchdowns on the ground.

To say that Lawrence checks all the boxes for NFL scouts is an understatement. At over 6'5" and 213 pounds, he has the prototypical size that teams covet. His hands measured at 10 inches even at his pro day, because hand size is a big deal for some. And while throwing passes in shorts against no defense isn't exactly a stiff test, uncorking 70-yard seeds tends to allay any concerns about arm strength.

That'll do.

As analyst Joe Marino wrote in his scouting report for Lawrence at The Draft Network, it takes some pretty hardcore nitpicking to find flaws in the young signal-caller's game:

"Lawrence is among the most exceptional talents at the quarterback position to ever enter the NFL. He blends elite physical gifts with exceptional football IQ, leadership traits, and intangibles that make him the type of talent that would be the No. 1 overall selection in almost any draft. Lawrence is accurate with the football to all levels of the field and brings a dynamic athletic profile to the table—which allows him to extend plays, work off-script, and present a nightmare for opponents to defend.

While Lawrence is a premier talent, he isn't without room to grow, particularly in terms of consistency working through progressions. With three seasons of experience as the starter at Clemson, which includes a College Football Playoff appearance every year, Lawrence is equipped to take control of an NFL offense from Day 1 and has the upside to become one of the most dynamic players in the entire NFL."

Yes, Lawrence's accuracy tended to dip a bit when he threw the ball outside the numbers at Clemson, and he occasionally tossed an ill-advised pass into double coverage. But while speaking with ESPN's Rece Davis after his workout, Lawrence was the first to admit he has work to do on his game, work that is going to start right away.

"Every year it's a lot of new things to work on that you kind of notice," Lawrence said. "And then a lot of the same stuff—footwork, comfortability in the pocket, pocket presence ... all that stuff kind of stays the same in that you have to work on that. Mentally, obviously the game is a little bit different at the NFL level with what's on your plate. So [I'm] taking this time after surgery to prepare mentally while I can't physically, and then once I can physically, I'll just be grinding. Really excited for that challenge. I love learning. It's such a fun thing to learn a new system and kind of piece everything together, so I'm excited to do that."

Ken Ruinard/Associated Press

That's right. All indications are that Lawrence appears to have an elite work ethic too. He embraces the challenge that will be bringing the Jaguars back to respectability.

The parallels with Luck are fairly obvious. Both passers look like they were grown in a lab somewhere. Both were so productive in college for so long that despite losing out on the Heisman in their final season, there was no question regarding their statuses as the first overall pick in the draft. And neither did anything but embrace the idea of playing for the team that had the league's worst record the previous year.

But while Luck didn't get the credit he deserved for his mobility, Lawrence is on a different level in that regard—a trait that will most assuredly appeal to Jacksonville's new head coach given Meyer's affinity for zone-read concepts. And while playing on a team loaded with NFL talent certainly didn't hurt Lawrence, he just…didn't…lose. He was beaten once by national champion LSU and once by national runner-up Ohio State.

That's it.

Now, none of this guarantees that Lawrence will lead the Jaguars to a Super Bowl or become the next megastar quarterback. Luck stunned the Colts by announcing his retirement prior to the 2019 season, and even before that bombshell, he wasn't the best player at his position from the Class of 2012.

Some short dude from Wisconsin sailed right past him up in Seattle.

But there's nothing so far that would lead one to believe that Trevor Lawrence doesn't have everything it takes to become a great player in the pros. The arm is there. The legs are there. The work ethic and toughness are there.

The sky is the limit.

And the Jaguars picked the ideal season to peel off 15 straight losses.

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